The building blocks are visible—what kind of culture will millennials create with them?
We all know that, at its heart, company culture is hard to define—and that it’s different for every company. Yet I’m willing to place a bet that, within the next five years, the up-and-coming millennial generation (which is likely to comprise nearly half of the workforce by 2020) is going to greatly affect corporate culture. And the changes will look similar across the board, no matter the company.
Study upon study has been conducted about the millennial generation, and most of us have seen the results. What we know about gen Y is this: They value feedback, collaboration, meaningful work, fun, corporate transparency, work-life balance, and fairness. Oh, and technology. They sure do love their technology.
So what we can glean from that list is that those values will influence cultural change. Here’s what I see shifting in workplaces over the next several years.
By far one of the most defining characteristics of the younger generation is its attachment to, love of, and understanding of technology. Which encompasses anything from their devices to the apps that are available on them. This generation grew up alongside technology, and it’s as natural to them as breathing.
And so, while it’s almost certainly a given that companies will take on new technology as a matter of course, Gen Y’s affinity for the latest and greatest will push the acceptance that much faster. Many companies will take on gamification because the generation values relaxation and fun. And they’ll change methods of communication—for one, there’s likely to be more video conferencing and less board room meetings. And even though the Gen Y’s like to have constant feedback and multiple touch points with supervisors, coworkers, and C suite, they will look for it in the form of email, texts, or app use versus one-on-one meetings. All of which will actually make it easier for the next shift: better work-life balance.
Gen Y is less about creating a distinction between work and personal life and more about ensuring that there’s a balance, even if it means that work time bleeds into home life. They’re looking for more flexibility—both in schedule and in where they sit. This generation is very willing to put in the hours needed to get the work done, but they want to be able to do it on their pace. So, for example, they might leave work at 3:00 p.m. to take care of a personal chore, but they’ll put in the additional few hours in the evening from the comfort of their own home, and they want to know that their company supports that flexibility. In fact, more and more millennials will want to work from home almost entirely. And the technology mentioned before makes it more convenient and possible.
And really, it’s an idea that supports a trend in business even today—the shift to a “fewer full-time/greater contract” model. Many companies have moved to a more flexible and scalable headcount process, with a small base of constant employees and a moving pool of freelance/contract workers to meet the needs when business booms and to reduce waste when workload is lighter. Many millennials are willing to let go of the steady full-time work in favor of the work-life balance present in freelance work; companies can benefit from that as well.
Gen Y’ers value meaning, both in the work they do and in the causes they support. They want to know that their efforts contribute to the greater good—if they don’t feel that their work is important, they’re likely to leave; similarly, if they feel that their workplace doesn’t value philanthropy, they won’t support the company for very long. So I see in the future greater corporate transparency, with companies ensuring that employees can tell that the company is being authentic and can tell how their efforts contribute to the results. I also see a push to increased corporate citizenship, with employees being more engaged with and loyal to companies that support a cause.
As the number millennials in the workforce increases, their influence will surely be seen. And so, as we look at what might transpire in business over the next five years, I might not have all the answers, but I am pretty confident in these changes moving forward. And the more that companies embrace the shift now, the more able they’ll be to thrive in the years to come.